School Credit Is The Least Of What I Gained From My Internship
Coming into my internship this summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew of JCC Chicago, but I had never had any firsthand experience. To me, JCC Chicago was a place to engage in a wide variety of activities like swimming, working out, going to camp—or in my case, a photography internship. But as many already know and I came to learn—it is so much more!
Growing up in Vernon Hills, I didn’t have a large community of Jewish friends that seems commonplace to many on the North Shore; so walking through the doors on my first day, the nerves began to kick-in. Not recognizing a single face, I sat down next to the other interns who I would be spending my summer with. As we began talking and engaging in the typical game of Jewish geography, I began to feel more comfortable and I couldn’t imagine my time at JCC Chicago without them. They kept me laughing and knew how to rally me when needed.
As the photography intern, I am in charge of organizing and sorting the photos taken at camp and capturing live events for the marketing materials and social media. And while there were certainly challenging days spent cataloging images, there were many, many exciting highlights I got to capture and be part of including JCC Chicago’s inaugural entry in the Chicago Pride Parade, the annual Shabbat On The Lake event, the Apachi Day Camp Cross-Town Classic and an unforgettable 12 hours at Camp Chi! Having never gone to an overnight camp myself, I was only vaguely aware of Camp Chi, let alone Apachi Day Camps and it was hard for me to grasp the importance of them. Seeing and experiencing it all, I am convinced Camp Chi and the Apachi Day Camps are magical.
Throughout my time at JCC Chicago, I was constantly reminded to ask for help if I needed it. For a long time, I believed asking for help meant you weren’t trying hard enough; now I know it means you are trying to do everything possible to understand the task at hand and complete it to the best of your ability. Initially, it was intimidating, but everyone I worked with at JCC Chicago was kind, caring, and always willing to help. And over the course of the summer I have learned the ins and outs, all the acronyms, the activities, the people—Libris, WGWAGs, Chi Winkle anyone?
Something I really underestimated was just how similar all of our backgrounds are. There is something so special about talking to people who grew up with the same Jewish values. There’s no explaining, just understanding. Truthfully, I never felt connected to the Jewish community until this internship and getting to know the JCC Chicago staff and other interns. It opened my eyes and allowed me to find people who were just like me.
Internships are a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and the potential career you want. At the end of my time here, I’ve found myself leaving with so much more, just like the program participants who come through the doors of each JCC Chicago location every day. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and connections I’ve made this summer and know they will have a lasting impact on me as I head back to school and continue to leverage what I have learned about the importance of building community.
Rebecca Ackerman is a junior at University of Minnesota who will be pursuing a career in photojournalism upon graduation in 2021.